Balan Madhavan talks about his memorable meeting with Prince Charles. He says Vava Suresh was the star

The meeting left the indomitable snake catcher Vava Suresh in tears. An emotional Vava said: “Not all the money in the world could have given me a moment like this.” He was talking about his meeting with Britain’s Prince Charles, when he got to spend 30 minutes with the royal guest at Vazhachal, Thrissur.

Along with ace wildlife photographer Balan Madhavan and three former winners of the Madhavan Pillai Conservation Award, Vava was able to meet Prince Charles.

Says Balan: “As I introduced Vava, Mari, Kannan and Bal Pandi as the real heroes of conservation, the Prince of Wales listened carefully and wanted to know more about their work and the challenges they faced in their area of work. He admired their passion and commitment.”

Balan says it was because of efforts taken by Belinda Wright, Executive Director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, that the five of them got the opportunity to meet Prince Charles. Balan says the Prince talked to them about elephants, poaching and migratory birds that reached Koonthankulam Bird Sanctuary every year.

“He asked Kannan why elephants were intruding into homesteads and plantations. Kannan told him that it was human beings who were intruding into the elephants’ corridors. He was astonished when he came to know that Mari, who never had much of formal schooling, was a walking encyclopaedia on the flora and fauna of Silent Valley,” recounts Balan.

Mari, Kannan, Bal Pandi and Vava were thrilled with the experience. Vava was the star! Prince Charles wanted to know how he caught a snake without any tools. Vava showed him how he did the trick and told himthat he planted a kiss on the snake after it was caught. The royal guest wanted to know which was the most dangerous snake he had caught and Vava told him that it was the King Cobra. “Prince Charles seemed amazed by Vava’s work,” recalls Balan.